At 4:15am Comrade Caren Jew (aka "C-C") phones to report heavy rain in her neighborhood. "Should we go?" I stick my head out the front door and feel nothing. "Looks pretty nice here!" I reply, and so we rendezvous at 0500 in downtown Bethesda, near mile 3.5 of the Capital Crescent Trail, and proceed southward with LED flashlight and headlamp. Our pace is ~12:30 min/mi through the darkness; I demand walk breaks every half-mile. The temperature is perfect, near 50°F. After the first mile I get hot and take off hat, gloves, and outer windshirt; Caren is smart enough to have left her jacket in the car. Water drips from the trees when breezes blow, but only a few extremely light sprinkles occur during our journey. We see a rabbit on the CCT peering at us, eyes retroflecting bright before it scuttles away. Dawn begins as we pass Fletcher's Boathouse. Caren spies a large deer watching us from the C&O Canal towpath a few feet above our trail.
Thompson's Boat Center is not yet officially open when we arrive at ~7am, but the cheerful attendant lets us in. He marvels at the distance Caren and I are going today and kindly offers us bottles of water. Increasing numbers of runners meet us as we proceed north along Rock Creek, and our measured splits between "P-P" markers confirm that we're still maintaining a pace of ~12:30, though our walk breaks grow in frequency as we both begin to get a bit tired. The National Zoo path is open, a boon which both Caren and I appreciate since it lets us avoid the scary tunnel with its narrow sidewalk. It gives us some extra mileage too! We tank up again at the zoo water fountain and trek upstream. Caren recognizes friends from the MCRRC Experienced Marathoner program on Beach Drive, including director Mike Broderick and Michelle Price leading separate training groups.
My shirt begins to show a red badge of abrasion (cf. ManaBurn) but fortunately it fits in with the autumn color scheme of the design. I apply more vaseline and all's well again. Our pace slows slightly to ~13 min/mi as we climb to the DC line and reenter Maryland. Restrooms at Candy Cane City are locked, so we visit the Meadowbrook Stables, chat with the horses, and continue across East-West Highway on RCT. Then we branch up residential streets to the Grubb Road path near mile 1.3 of the CCT. Both of us are definitely feeling fatigue now, but when we see the marker for the last mile Caren proposes that we blitz it out. We manage a final 11:23 split, our fastest mile of the day. It's almost 10am now, for total of 4 hours 44 minutes on foot. Within seconds of our finish the long-delayed deluge begins.